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  xFriday, June 27, 2003

(continued from the previous post)

Meanwhile, the Republicans -- apparently counting on unquestioned support from the military -- are slashing spending that benefits service people in order to pay for Bush's tax cuts for the rich. Daily Kos quotes an editorial in the Army Times:
Nothing but lip service

(Issue Date: June 30, 2003)

In recent months, President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress have missed no opportunity to heap richly deserved praise on the military. But talk is cheap -- and getting cheaper by the day, judging from the nickel-and-dime treatment the troops are getting lately.

For example, the White House griped that various pay-and-benefits incentives added to the 2004 defense budget by Congress are wasteful -- and unnecessary -- including a modest proposal to double the $6,000 gratuity paid to families of troops who die on active duty. This comes at a time when Americans continue to die in Iraq at a rate of about one a day.

Similarly, the administration announced that on Oct. 1 it wants to roll back recent modest increases in monthly imminent-danger pay (from $225 to $150) and family-separation allowance (from $250 to $100) for troops getting shot at in combat zones.

Then there's military tax relief -- or the lack thereof. As Bush and Republican leaders in Congress preach the mantra of tax cuts, they can't seem to find time to make progress on minor tax provisions that would be a boon to military homeowners, reservists who travel long distances for training and parents deployed to combat zones, among others.

Incredibly, one of those tax provisions -- easing residency rules for service members to qualify for capital-gains exemptions when selling a home -- has been a homeless orphan in the corridors of power for more than five years now.

The chintz even extends to basic pay. While Bush's proposed 2004 defense budget would continue higher targeted raises for some ranks, he also proposed capping raises for E-1s, E-2s and O-1s at 2 percent, well below the average raise of 4.1 percent.

The Senate version of the defense bill rejects that idea, and would provide minimum 3.7 percent raises for all and higher targeted hikes for some. But the House version of the bill goes along with Bush, making this an issue still to be hashed out in upcoming negotiations.

All of which brings us to the latest indignity ‹ Bush's $9.2 billion military construction request for 2004, which was set a full $1.5 billion below this year's budget on the expectation that Congress, as has become tradition in recent years, would add funding as it drafted the construction appropriations bill.

But Bush's tax cuts have left little elbow room in the 2004 federal budget that is taking shape, and the squeeze is on across the board.

and this story in the Marine Corps Times ("House Republicans dig in against child tax credit for combat troops").

There you have it, folks. Not only does Bush try to pay for a war with a tax cut, but he tries to pay for a tax cut for the rich with . And the Army Times doesn't seem at all appreciative. Kos speculates that these developments might erode thraditional GOP support by the rank-and-file military, and it certainly should be pointed out to question the GOP's alleged competence in national security.

Add it all up, and I believe that Bush's mendacity about the war is going to be much more crippling than his apologists want us to believe. As American soldiers continue to die, and Iraqi "democracy" proves to be elusive at best, Americans are going to ask just how we got into this mess in the first place.

One difference I'll grant between Vietnam and Iraq is that the US involvement in Vietnam was incremental -- from supporting the French, to sending special forces, to sending troops to train the ARVN, to sending security forces for the cadres, and so on and so on. No one president was responsible -- Johnson inherited the involvement from Kennedy but escalated it; Nixon got elected once as a hawk and again with a "secret plan" to end the war (send more troops).

But Iraq is all Bush, baby. He's the once who insisted on war, and nothing but, and right now, when his own evidence didn't support that case. And it's becoming abundantly clear that the hawks who are so enamored of using small deployments to enable frequent -- perhaps constant -- use of the US military didn't have anything close to a plan for the subsequent occupation (hope, as the military maxim goes, is not a plan), and now we're stuck. If troops are still dying come election day next year, Bush had better have some fancy explanations prepared, because I don't think the public will back the sudden "discovery" of a nuclear program in Iran.





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